The Old Fashioned Cocktail : Official Travel Source

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The Old Fashioned Cocktail

Learn to make Louisville’s official cocktail with a shot of history.

It all began at the Pendennis Club, a private club still in operation in Louisville. Legend has it that a guest at the bar ordered a cocktail, but warned the bartender that he wasn’t a fan of bourbon. Not wanting to serve a non-bourbon drink in the Bluegrass (it is Bourbon Country, after all), the bartender concocted a drink that ended up being a huge hit with the customer. And though similar versions were possibly being mixed in the same time period, the now traditional bourbon cocktail is said to have been popularized by Pendennis club member and master distiller, Colonel James E. Pepper, who introduced the cocktail to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. It was also the first documented proof of a recipe being called the “Old Fashioned” versus any drink made in the “old-fashioned way” which was mixing spirits with sweetener and fruit.

Louisville laid claim to this spirited history in 2015 when the city’s Mayor proclaimed the Old Fashioned “Louisville’s Official Cocktail”.

Each year, for the first two weeks of June, Louisville celebrates Old Fashioned Fortnight which encompasses bourbon events, cocktail specials and National Bourbon Day on June 14th.

Quench your thirst by ordering up an Old-Fashioned at any of the 40 + restaurants and bars along Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail.

The original Pendennis Club recipe:


  • 2 ounces fine Kentucky Bourbon
  • 1 tsp. simple syrup (or ½ lump of sugar)
  • ½ slice orange
  • 1 cherry with stem
  • 1 lemon twist
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters


Mix sugar, water and Angostura bitters in an Old Fashioned glass. Drop in a cherry and an orange wedge. Muddle into a paste using a muddler or the back of a spoon. Pour in bourbon, fill with ice cubes, stir and enjoy.

It’s Official: Why Louisville celebrates a classic cocktail

Louisville lies in the heart of Kentucky’s Bourbon industry and is the spot where one of the quintessential Bourbon cocktails — the Old Fashioned — was created. The Old Fashioned was declared the official drink of Louisville in 2015, and the city celebrates by hosting the Old Fashioned Fortnight and highlighting the cocktail through Bourbon-related events and promotions during the first two weeks of June each year. The celebration culminates on June 14, the national day of Bourbon.

The term “cocktail” likely had its beginnings in Britain, but became popular in the U.S. in the early 1800s as a drink concoction similar to the Old Fashioned made of bitters, sugar, water, and a spirit of choice, such as brandy or rum. By the mid-1800s, cocktails were being embellished with syrups, fruits, and other garnishes, which led some individuals to ask for their libation “the old fashioned way” to describe the cocktail they preferred.

Read more about the origin of the Old Fashioned and Louisville history here.

Guest Contributor

Vickie Yates Brown Glisson
Board Member, Frazier History Museum